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Tinikling: More than Quick Chicks & Big Sticks

Tinikling: More than Quick Chicks & Big Sticks

Tinikling: More than Quick Chicks & Big Sticks

Tinikling is a popular traditional Filipino dance. It consists of beating large bamboo poles on the ground and clapping them together while dancers step in and out to music. The name comes from the tikling birds of the Philippine’s Visayan Islands. Tinikling (meaning tikling-like), is meant to be a quick but graceful imitation of the movements of the birds escaping the bamboo traps of rice farmers. Female tinikling dancers traditionally wear a balintawak, a colorful dress with arched sleeves. Male dancers wear a barong tagalog, a sheer long-sleeved shirt, and pants. All dancers traditionally perform barefoot, moving quickly through the sticks (lest their ankles be caught in between).

Traditional tinikling is widely practiced and taught for cultural organizations and performances, especially at Filipino Independence Day celebrations. It has even been embraced by American physical education systems to promote rhythm and coordination. Public awareness of the dance has increased thanks to Sue Heck’s tinikling routine to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off on ABC’s The Middle. A new genre of modern tinikling incorporates 21st century music, modified clapping patterns, and current dance moves. Tekniqlingz, a dance crew based in Hawaii, teaches both traditional and modern tinikling, along with other traditional Filipino dances.

Barkada, the Filipino cultural club at my college, was established in 2007. Every year, we organize a variety show featuring cultural performances by members of the Filipino community at the school. One of the main acts is tinikling, typically dominated by girls. I’ve personally participated in the last two cultural shows. We also perform for the largest annual student-run production, Mystique of the East, a collaboration between all of the Asian culture clubs, showcasing traditional and modern performances of Asian culture. We regularly attract an audience of about 700 people. Tinikling is never just for Filipinos, though. We always encourage girls and boys of any race or ethnicity to learn and perform with us.

But it’s more than just a performance for us, as dancers. It’s a time that we set aside to bond. We’re able to help each other, whether it’s counting out beats, matching steps to lyrics, or running to the dining hall to fetch ice for a twisted ankle. We make sacrifices, spending sleepless nights of fierce frustration (when we can’t get the moves in sync) and overwhelming pride (when we finally do) together, and it’s always worth it. Every rehearsal is a chance to strengthen our friendships (and calf muscles). Every performance is an opportunity to present months of exhausting cardio, splintered hands and ankles, and a part of our cherished culture.


Alicia is a 20 year old junior at The College of New Jersey, with a major in Psychology and anticipated minor in Women's and Gender Studies. In addition to Her Culture, she is a writer for The Prospect and secretary of TCNJ Barkada (Filipino club). Her interests include wearing black, playing Skyrim, appreciating her identity as Asian/Filipino, and knitting hats for stuffed animals. She values practical education over academic excellence and (as an introvert) the idea of speaking "only if it improves upon the silence" (Gandhi). Her goals include reaching self-actualization, building a successful and stable career, and benching her own body weight (85 lb).


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